Don't give up!

According to research 80% of people that sign up to a gym as part of their new years resolution have quit by the second week of February. The momentum of their resolutions loses steam and it’s not difficult to see why. The most common reason for a gradual decline in impetus comes from us having taken an over aggresive and unrealistic approach for the New Year and after a few quick weeks of hard work, they’re less than thrilled with the results. But Rome wasn't built in a day so it’s time to get back on track!

So you had a night out and it ended with a kebab at 3am…big deal, or you missed a couple of days because you were feeling tired…so what? Don’t let a day or week off affect the bigger picture and put a stop to your fitness targetss. Nobody is perfect and the key to any success is not perfection…but rather persistence. Everyone gets knocked down once in awhile…to be victorious you need to be one of the ones that get's back up!

Improvements and fitness gains are not achieved through a single workout they come from repitition. So let’s say that you did push-ups and crunches every morning for a week and then quit. That’s 7 days of calisthenics. Now let’s say that you start back with something a bit more manageable, like push-ups and crunches 3-4 days per week. That’s over 180 days of calisthenics if you can re-start and keep it going through the end of the year! Most resolutions fail because we are too aggressive and leave no margin for error. When a day is missed or we take a needed rest, we quit out of self-disgust and frustration. Don’t give up so easily!

The message is simple... Don’t give up. Your health and fitness goals are too important to you, so get back up and try again! If you’re still going strong - good for you and keep it up! – you’re gaining momentum. There are plenty of workouts between us and our summertime goals. Each day is an opportunity that can take us one step closer to where we want to be. It’s February 8th... 80% will give up in the next 7 days…don’t be one of them!

Bettter Sleep = Better Progress

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Sleep, something so simple yet many find it very difficult to get right. Working hours, a busy social life or just a strange fear of missing out if you hit the sack before 12, whatever the reason sleep is the one thing that if most people fix would change the playing field completely. Whether the goal is to get leaner, stronger or to grow more muscle; proper sleep has so many benefits that it affects all goals equally. Change your sleeping patterns and see what it can do for you.

The majority of people require somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. When comparing the averages of people training with me, the average is more like 4-7 hours per night, demanding jobs either requiring people to work late or simply being stressful enough that people need a social release at the end of it, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to switch off at night. Get your 7-9 hours though and that’s where you're going to see huge benefits.

Giving your body the right amount of rest helps you to recover from exercise quicker, your stress hormones are lower throughout the day and most importantly for how your physical appearance, your glucose metabolism improves with regular sleeping patterns. Now of course 1 or 2 nights of inadequate sleep isn’t going to completely unbalance your normal hormonal signalling but consistently getting lower amounts of sleep will make you feel stressed, weak and fat to the point where achieving your fitness goals, especially when it comes to aesthetics, can become a really difficult challenge.

HGH (human growth hormone) is the most important hormone to think about when improving your sleep. It's released in cycles as you are sleeping and although it’s different for everyone, generally the first release is said to take place about 90-120 minutes after you fall asleep and then another release 3 hours after that. So getting a minimum 5-6 hours sleep per night will be incredibly beneficial, but increase that up to 8-9 hours, and you'll see significant improvements in everything. HGH is not only hugely beneficial for recovery from exercise, but is also one of the key components when it comes to burning off massive amounts of body fat.

Bodyweight Training

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I love training outdoors, for me nothing quite beats a workout on the sand dunes looking out onto the ocean or at the park surrounded by palm trees and a light breeze. It's one of the biggest perks of being a personal trainer out here.

Bodyweight training is ideal for these two beautiful locations, it allows you to construct an effective routine without the need for an expensive gym membership or any type of professional equipment. Bodyweight training allows you to exercise any time you like, anywhere you choose. 

Whether you are looking to tone your buns, sculp your abs or strengthen your core there are a wide range of different bodyweight exercises that you can implement into your regular workout routine to make a significant difference. Burpees are great for engaging your core, hamstrings, glutes, quads, arms and chest, whereas compound exercises for example lunges and pushups are particularly effective when it comes to performance improvements and strength gains. A plank is enough to challenge more than twenty different muscles across your body, including your glutes, legs, arms, back, and shoulders. 

While using bodyweight exercises as a method for building strength is a certain way to maximize your muscles in no time, the benefits don’t stop with just strength. Bodyweight training, if even just a few minutes every day, can have a huge impact on your body’s metabolism – helping it to work in over-drive so that you lose fat fast, and focus on building lean muscle instead.

Finally, perhaps the biggest benefit of bodyweight training is that it actually delivers results. Bodyweight exercises work because they comprise of compound movements, engaging numerous muscles and joints in each move to raise your performance and build strength faster.

Fad dieting

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What is a fad diet? A fad diet is a diet that promises quick weight loss through what is usually an unhealthy and unbalanced diet.

There's are a huge number of fad diets available and almost every week there seems to be a new revolutionary quick fix, there's no doubt the fad diet is the King of the dieting world. The cabbage diet, a juice fast, even the Atkins diet are nothing more than marketing gimmicks and to be honest are a complete waste of your time. A diet that is both short term and unsustainable, basically anything that doesn’t instil new and long lasting tendencies in your food intake , is not only counterproductive to your long term success but also in my opinion a fad.

Nutritionally deficient and unhealthy, fad diets are unsustainable eating plans and always fail, inevitably sending their consumer back to a more negative stage than when they began!

The message of this piece is that unfortunately there is no miracle diet, you need to take your time, be patient and most importantly build positive habits for the future not just for a short-lived stretch.

Late night eating

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No doubt you have probably heard a mix of everything regarding late night eating habits? Advice from one person says, “No carbs after 6pm!” and the next says, “Eat right before you go to bed to maximize gains!” 

The truth is that there is no late night eating habit that can totally ruin your physique - It doesn’t matter! Eating carbs right before jumping into bed isn't a problem. However, you could also not eat carbs before hitting the sack and you would also be OK!

At this point you are probably wondering, “Alright, then what should I do?”

To begin with, nutritional timing is mostly irrelevant. Of course, pre/post workout meals are crucial because you want to fuel your body before training to boost your workout and you also want to fuel your body post workout to aid your recovery. However, these two situations aside, your nutritional timing isn’t all that important.

Of far more significance is your macronutrient breakdown and ensuring that you meet those daily requirements. What is a macronutrient? Macronutrients are the elements by which our calories are made up of. These are better known as Fats, Carbohydrates and Protein. These three macronutrients make up our total caloric consumption for the day and tracking your intake of these macronutrients is key to changing your physique. 

My personal recommendation is to use My Fitness Pal to set your caloric and macronutrients targets for the day. Using this, you can use the app or website to put in your daily food consumption. The app keeps track of your macronutrients for you that way you always know both, how much you’ve consumed and how much you have left to consume.

In simple terms, burning more calories than you intake will cause you to lose weight and doing the opposite will make you gain weight. However, taking things one step further and not just tracking calories, but tracking macronutrient totals will provide you with better results overall.

Finally, the foods you eat is NOT as important as the macronutrients that make up these foods. To put it another way, fat is fat, protein is protein and a carb is a carb – inconsiderate of the source. The only incidence this would not apply would be if you have a predisposed health condition that is influenced by consuming certain foods. So with that being said, you can basically eat what you want, whenever you want, as long as you adhere to your personal macronutrient targets every day! This gives you a much more feasible diet because you can alter food choices and actually enjoy your diet.

Forget trying to conform to dieting illusions and start getting results while actually enjoying your diet!

The Psychological Benefits of Exercise

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We all know about the physical benefits of exercise — a healthy heart, weight loss, muscle development, cancer prevention, etc. — but did you know that exercise has been scientifically proven to offer several mental health benefits as well?

Exercise releases endorphins, a group of hormones that create a feeling of accomplishment when we complete a tough workout and the positive attitude that we have for the rest of our day as a result. These experiences are often referred to as “runner’s high,” but you can experience that same euphoric sensation from any type of vigorous, cardiovascular activity like aerobics and cycling.

Here’s a look at five key psychological benefits of regular exercise:

Relieves stress:

Exercising after a long, stressful day might be far from appealing, but it can actually be incredibly relieving. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical exercise helps your brain to boost production of endorphins and diverts your attention away from any stressful issues you are dealing with.

Stress and anxiety can also contribute to insomnia, which in turn can lead to a whole host of other health problems. Research shows that exercise can help people with chronic insomnia not only to fall asleep faster, but it also improves the quality of their sleep.

Boosts our mood:

Studies show that regular exercise helps your brain release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, neurotransmitters and endocannabinoids and reduces the production of immune system chemicals that trigger or worsen depression.

In addition, as body temperature is increased with moderate or intense activity it can have an overall calming effect on the body. Exercising outdoors also helps to provide vitamin D, which your body absorbs through sun exposure. Scientists have linked low vitamin D levels with chronic pain, asthma and seasonal affective disorder.

Improves memory:

Many studies show that exercise helps us combat the ageing effects on the brain. A study carried out by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, a section of the brain used in verbal memory and learning.

Another study in the UK produced similar results, showing that exercise can not only keep us sharper mentally as we age but that is also has the potential to fight the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

After only two years, a study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that people who improved their diet and level of exercise saw improvements in memory and other mental functions.

Stimulates us:

In addition to the mood and memory-boosting benefits of exercise, it can also boost our energy levels and our sense of creativity.

A study in Sweden found that workers who engaged in regular exercise were more productive than those who did not exercise at all.

Another study showed that aerobic exercise stimulates our imaginations. Have you ever had a sudden moment of clarity and come up with a fantastic idea while out walking, jogging or biking? If so then you’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. Just as exercising outside gives us exposure to vitamin D, inspiration can come from a simple change of scenery.

Raises self-confidence:

Anxious or depressed people often describe having a feeling of a lack of control in their lives, My advise would be to first try committing to a regular exercise to help regain a sense of power and boost feelings of self-worth. Even those of us who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety can benefit from exercise.

Interestingly, exercising by yourself can improve your body perception even if you don’t shed weight or improve muscle tone as a result.

Exercise is an important part of your overall health, it offers numerous physical and mental benefits for people of all ages and abilities. The next time you find your energy or mood lagging, put on your workout gear and sweat it out! Your body and mind will thank you later.

 

Essential fats?

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Fat plays an essential role in our diets and health, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids. These include the much talked about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Lets take a look at these essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), what they are and where to find them.

Understanding the roles of fat, and which fats to choose, can help you and your clients avoid a fear of dietary fat, which is essential for our health and serves several important functions within the body. These include:

  1. Energy (providing 9 calories per gram of fat, energy storage)
  2. Protection (surrounding vital organs, protecting them and helping to keep in place)
  3. Thermoregulation (insulating from environmental temperatures)
  4. Nutrient transport (regulation and excretion of nutrients in the cells– carrying vitamins A,D,E and K)
  5. Stomach emptying regulation (slows stomach’s hydrochloric acid secretion)
  6. Hormone synthesis (precursor)
  7. Satiety and palatability (initiate release of cholecystokinin (CCK) which contributes to satiety)
  8. Cell membrane (structure and function)

The fat in our food is made up of fatty acids, which are classified into three major groups based on their chemical configurations: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All fatty acids are made up of a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling in the spaces around each carbon atom. The configuration of these atoms determines the type and nature of the fat and whether it is a solid or liquid at room temperature. Additionally the stability of fat, which has implications for health and culinary purposes, depends on its configuration. In general, all fats and oils come from animal and plant sources and are made up of a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. (Marz, 2002)

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s)

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are missing several hydrogen atoms and have two or more double bonds. Due to the chemical nature of polyunsaturated fatty acids, they are very loosely packed, remain in a liquid state, and are highly unstable when exposed to heat and light. Therefore, these oils should be packaged in dark glass and stored away from heat (though most are not).

The unstable nature of polyunsaturated fatty acids makes them susceptible to the formation of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can cause inflammation and tissue damage. They have been implicated in a number of diseases. (Marz, 2002)

PUFAs are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized within the human body, and therefore must be obtained from the diet.

There are two classifications of essential fatty acids:

  • Omega-3 (n−3)
  • Omega-6 (n−6)

Omega-3 fatty acids can be further divided into:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

The body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, however the conversion rate is generally inadequate to provide sufficiency of EPA and DHA, the implications of this will be discussed later. Because of the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA, these fatty acids are considered “conditionally essential.”

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel (EPA and DHA)
  • Grass-fed beef (ALA)
  • Flaxseed (ALA)
  • Hemp seeds (ALA)
  • Walnuts (ALA)

As mentioned above, because the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is suboptimal, plant sources of EFAs may not impart the same health benefits as animal sources, which are further down the biochemical pathway where they can influence anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. (Davis, B. C., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. 2003)

Omega-6 fatty acids primarily consist of linoleic acid (LA) which can be converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA). GLA can also be found in black current oil and evening primrose oil, and AA can also be consumed directly from meat.

GLA has therapeutic value for inflammatory conditions that affect the skin and joints as well as for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, diabetic neuropathy, heart disease, high cholesterol, hay fever, and metabolic syndrome. (WebMD)

AA is the precursor to pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. The Standard American Diet (SAD) provides relatively low levels of DHA and EPA and high levels of AA compared with diets from other industrialized nations.

Sources of omega-6 fatty acids include:

  • Safflower
  • Sunflower
  • Soybean*
  • Grapeseed
  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Cottonseed oils

(Marz, 2002)

*Current research on soybean oil shows that it is obesogenic and diabetogenic. Unfortunately, this oil is ubiquitous in many processed foods. (Deol, P., Evans, 2015)

Some sources say that humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of approximately 1:1. The modern Western diet typically has a ratio of ~15:1. It is generally deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and has excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared to the ancestral diet, on which genetic patterns were established.

Excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids and a very high omega-6:omega-3 ratio have been shown to promote the pathogenesis of many ailments, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids (a low omega-6:omega-3 ratio) have been shown to exert favorable effects on asthma, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and inflammation. Following a diet with a lower ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic inflammatory diseases that are highly prevalent in Western societies. (Simopoulus, 2002, Chan, 2009)

Practical Eating Tips

  1. Cook with extra virgin coconut oil, organic (preferably grass-fed) butter, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil. Each oil has a different smoke point based on its chemical structure. Be sure not to heat an oil beyond its smoke point as this leads to free radical formation.
  2. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils:  corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower . These are unstable and pro-inflammatory. If you use canola oil, make sure it’s organic (otherwise it will be genetically modified).
  3. Avoid deep-fried foods, unless they have been cooked in a good quality oil (extra virgin coconut oil, red palm oil or avocado oil) that has not been reused.
  4. Avoid anything that is made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. This includes shortening and margarine, doughnuts, French fries, onion rings, tempura, and most processed, commercially prepared baked foods such as cakes and pastries, chocolate bars, cookies, crackers, and potato chips.
  5. Avoid nuts and seeds roasted in oil as these are usually polyunsaturated oils. You’re better off roasting them yourself.
  6. Eat healthy, concentrated sources of fat from plant foods, including avocado, coconut milk, unsweetened coconut, virgin coconut oil, olives and extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts and raw seeds,.
  7. If consuming fat from animal sources, choose organic chicken, organic eggs from free-range birds, cold-water fish, wild game and grass-fed butter, red meat (beef, buffalo, and lamb).

 

Supplementing with Essential Fatty Acids

Fish oil (EPA and DHA) doses vary depending on the goal of supplementation. (Consult with your healthcare provider for your specific needs and recommendations.)

  • General health: 250mg of combined EPA and DHA is the minimum dose and can be obtained via fish intake
  • Cardiovascular health: 1g daily
  • Anti-inflammatory: 6g spread over the course of a day
  • Pregnant women: should increase their intake of DHA by at least 200mg a day, as long as there is no risk of elevated mercury levels.

 

References

Chan EJ, Cho L. What can we expect from omega-3 fatty acids? Cleve Clin J Med. 2009 Apr;76(4):245-51. Review.

Davis, B. C., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2003). Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. The American journal of clinical nutrition78(3), 640S-646S.

Deol, P., Evans, J. R., Dhahbi, J., Chellappa, K., Han, D. S., Spindler, S., & Sladek, F. M. (2015). Soybean Oil Is More Obesogenic and Diabetogenic than Coconut Oil and Fructose in Mouse: Potential Role for the Liver. PloS one,10(7).

http://examine.com/supplements/fish-oil/

Marz, R. (2002) Medical Nutrition From Marz, 2nd edition. Oregan. Omni-Press.

Simopoulus, AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmcother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.

Siri-Tarino, P, Sun, Q, Hu, F and Krauss, R. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. AJCN. January 13, 2010.

Article by Dr. Geoff Lecovin

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-805-gamma%20linolenic%20acid.aspx?activeingredientid=805&activeingredientname=gamma%20linolenic%20acid

10 Benefits of hiring a personal trainer

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The thought of a personal trainer screaming and pushing his clients to near collapse may scare some people away from hiring a trainer, but the benefits of using a personal trainer should be considered carefully. While some in the business provide "tough love" motivation, personally my preference is to work with clients in a non-threatening way, helping them to achieve specific fitness goals. Understanding the potential benefits of a personal trainer can help you decide if the financial investment is worthwhile.


1. Motivation

Maintaining motivation can be challenging when you exercise on your own. Regular sessions with a personal trainer help to increase your motivation and continue with a workout program. Even if you aren't using a personal trainer for every session, knowing that you'll meet with your trainer soon will motivate you during workouts. You'll also get a sense of pride and satisfaction when showing your trainer the improvement you've made as your exercise program proceeds.


2. Knowing where to start

Knowing how to set up a complete exercise schedule that includes all the activities you need to do - cardio, weight training, and flexibility - can be overwhelming.  Add the time and knowledge it takes to choose exercises, weights, reps, and sets and you may quit before you even start.

This is where a personal trainer can be the biggest help.  They can help you to maximise your time while keeping you within your own limits so you don't overdo it. They can also help you set goals and map out a specific schedule so you know when, how and where you'll fit in your workouts.


3. Professional Instruction

Professional trainers teach you the correct way to perform each exercise in your routine. They often demonstrates the movement and watch you perform it, correcting any problems with your technique or posture. Learning how to correctly perform exercises reduces your risk of injury and you will also be able to do the exercises on your own at home or at the gym after getting professional fitness instruction.


4. Personally Tailored Workouts

Personal trainers create a specific workout plan designed for you and what you want to achieve. A personalised routine will always give you better results than a generic workout plan because your trainer knows your physical condition, your exercise preferences and medical background. From this information they are able to make a tailored program to fit your needs.


5. Target Achievement

A personal trainer will help you to define your fitness targets. They will account for your current fitness level and decide with you specifically what you want to achieve through your workouts. Most people have an idea of the targets they want to set, a trainer is able to help you break them down into smaller goals that are specific and realistic. A personal trainer also helps assess your progress toward those goals.


6. Exercise Variety

Experienced trainers will teaches you a variety of exercises which will prevent you from getting bored. If a certain exercise isn't working for you, the trainer can replace it with something that suits you and provides the same physical benefits. A trainer will also help you to make adjustments to your routine as your fitness level improves ensuring continuous progress.


7. Time Efficiency

A professional trainer will fully utilise your workout time to increase the effectiveness of your exercise program. This is particularly beneficial when you have a limited amount of time to exercise. For example, if you have to cut your 1-hour training session short one day, your trainer can complete a routine with you that burns the same number of calories and provides the same physical benefits in half the time.


8. Accountability

A common problem when exercising can be lack of commitment to a regular exercise program. Exercising by yourself makes it far easier to skip a session or fall off the wagon completely since there's no one to hold you accountable for you actions. Working with a trainer keeps you accountable, making it far more likely that you'll stick with your training program.


9. Needing to be challenged

It's a fact that many people tend to slack off on their workouts sometimes, especially when things get tough. A trainer can motivate you to push past those self-imposed limits, encouraging you to lift heavier, go longer and challenge yourself more than you would on your own. You'll find it's very hard to slack off with a trainer standing over you, telling you to do just...one...more...rep!  You may even find hidden strengths you never knew you had, which can motivate you even more.


10. Injuries & Special needs

Specific issues such as heart disease, arthritis, old injuries, etc. require a very carefully designed routine, working with an experienced trainer (who works with your doctor, of course) can help you find a program to help heal injuries and avoid any further problems. It's also a great idea to work with a trainer if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant and want a safe, effective workout to keep you healthy and fit.